Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Press Freedom is the Commercial Right to Sell News, Views and Entertainment

Which is probably why only scant attention is being paid to those four new kidnapped hostages of the MILF/Abu Sayyaf Group compared to the round-the-clock coverage of Ces Drilon, her two camera men and a professor for peace! After all who in the media really cares about some no-name employees of a Basilan electric cooperative. So what if they get beheaded, right? Anyway the famous tv anchorwoman Ces Drilon is safe, eh?

Manuel L. Quezon III takes up the issue of the Manila Pen caper, in which the most recent development is a decision by the Makati Regional Trial Court junking a ten million peso class action law suit by journalists who got in the way of law enforcers trying to serve arrest warrants against military rebels Sonny Trillanes and Danilo Lim. He points to an editorial in Business World (most likely written by Vergel O. Santos, one of the losing plaintiffs in the case) in which the faint complaint against the decision is heard that, "No attempt whatever has been made to validate it against superior legal principles, such as laid down in the constitution, in particular freedom of the press." Such an accusation cannot however be made against this blog and it is most unfair of MLQ3 to characterize my position as trivializing the importance of the decision as a mere comeuppance for the plaintiffs as I have always proudly and loudly argued these issues from "superior legal principles". Here is a small selection of relevant posts that I urge my good friend MLQ3 to peruse and debate on their own merits:

Press Freedom is not a License to Obstruct Justice and Endanger Police
The Difference Between Free Blogging and Commercial Journalism
Who Owns the Right to Know -- the Public, the Press, Congress?
Media Asks the Supreme Court to Make Them Immune from the Law
Supreme Court Praised for Prejudging Hundreds of Active Libel Cases
The Myth That Media Can Be Unobtrusive
The Limits of Press Freedom in Broadcast Journalism
Two Writs Don't Make a Right
The Right to Life Has Priority Over the Right to Know
Long Live Sancho Panza!
Oblivious Human Shields and the Right to Be in Harm's Way
Rapporteur is French for Reporter and Amparo is Gobbledygook for Unconstitutional
Artistic Freedom and the Right to Be Unhappy With It
Dustup Over Angono and the Terrorist Bill of Rights
Press Freedom and Organized Religion are Freedoms of Assembly
Bitter Herbs and Purple Flowers
PDI and the Separation of the Church and the Press
The Responsible Journalism of Conrado de Quiros
Pangalangan v. Puno on Judicial Activism and the Rule of Law
The Right to Know and the Writ of Amparo
Spying on Senate Executive Session Was a Violation of National Security

The reader will hopefully find more than just "superior legal principles" argued in these posts, but common sense and reason as well, to guard against the creeping liberal fascism of those in the Mass Media who haven't a care for the principle that Justice is Fairness and that NO RIGHT is unlimited by the duty to uphold the Constitution. Press Freedom as organized journalism is a MERE commercial right that like a spring cannot rise higher than its source in EVERYONE'S rights and freedoms. It is the height of hubris to claim that the right to sell news, views and entertainment somehow trumps the right to life and law and order.

The full text of the Makati Regional Trial Court decision dismissing the class action suit of the Manila Pen journalists is provided by ABSCBN News Research Dept. (pdf)

25 comments:

manuelbuencamino said...

"...by journalists who got in the way of law enforcers trying to serve arrest warrants against military rebels Sonny Trillanes and Danilo Lim. "

How ?

manuelbuencamino said...

Press freedom is the right to report what one has seen heard, and/or experienced.. The report can be sold or given away free.

The distinction made between commercial and free reports is false. The proper distinction is between propaganda and honest reporting, between real news and opinion disguised as news.

DJB Rizalist said...

MB,
Do you believe that the right to sell entertainment news (tsismis) is equal before the Constitution to editorial or opinion column writing, as a matter of "right" and "freedom"? I really would like your opinion on this one.

Regarding the distinction between commercial and free reports, I claim that there is such a thing as "freedom of expression" of which commercial journalism is proper subset, in other words the Constitution protects both as free speech, but press freedom is different in that it is actually part of free enterprise capitalism. Not only do we have right to express ourselves, we also have a right to try and sell our news, views and entertainment.

But notice that for example, there are all sorts of restrictions on the press, as in the franchises, licenses, taxes, regulations, etc imposed on "organized journalism" whether print or broadcast.

I don't think the Constitution distinguishes however between "propaganda" and what you call "honest reporting". Both enjoy the equal protection of the Law as free speech. Except for the limits imposed by the libel laws, the Constitution is "content neutral" in granting such protection.

The fact that all the plaintiffs involved in this case were intending to SELL their stories makes their right to free expression subject to the above restrictions on commercial journalism, unlike for example bloggers, though all are subject to libel restriction.

manuelbuencamino said...

Sori DJ, didn't realize you were talking as a lawyer.

But as a layman, sure The Buzz is on equal footing with Philippine Commentary and CBCP news. They are forms of expression.

As to the distinction I made between news and propaganda etc , again I speak as a layman making a personal value judgment.

"But notice that for example, there are all sorts of restrictions on the press, as in the franchises, licenses, taxes, regulations, etc imposed on "organized journalism" whether print or broadcast."

Except for taxes, this is censorship. Pulis state stuff like the no fly zone during the Makati rally where the excuse to ban crowd size coverage was to protect the demonstrators from a chopper crash.

"The fact that all the plaintiffs involved in this case were intending to SELL their stories makes their right to free expression subject to the above restrictions on commercial journalism, unlike for example bloggers, though all are subject to libel restriction."

This is the false distinction I was talking about. So what if they were selling their story? Commercialism is not the issue.

DJB Rizalist said...

mb,
I am not talking as a lawyer, but as patriotic citizen who happens to understand the Constitution.

Now then, why is the fact of commercial journalism important? Well because we are talking about "press freedom" which only applies to the Press as such. You call franchise laws a form of censorship? I disagree. Those laws are there because big outfits like ABSCBN News are given a special privilege to use the airwaves which penetrate right into our homes. In exchange for that, the press agrees to certain duties, restrictions and responsibilities. Otherwise why would they be given the privilege of beaming their money making products into our own homes?

That is why press freedom is not HIGHER than pure freedom of speech, or the right to law and order, as Ellen Tordesillas is always claiming.

The fact that her opinions are sold for money by Malaya and ABSCBN collects billions in ad money imposes RESPONSIBILITIES on them as print and broadcast entities that don't exist for us ordinary expressers of opinion.

Just because mixed in with the stream of commercialized crapola that comprises 99.9% of the media's offerings are some thoughtful opinions or ideological propaganda does not make them the guardians of the public's right to know. It is only capitalism and the market for news, views and entertainment that a small, small group of people are able to serve the public's right to know.

But as you have admitted already the right to sell news views and entertainment is a level Constitutional playing field. Tsismis is every bit as "high and mighty" as serious opinion and news because the Public's Right to Know is not restricted to knowing politics or Trillanes or any of that.


By the way, the CBCP and PHilippine American Commentary exercise a less regulated and freer right to expression than the The Buzz, which is definitely covered by the Franchise of ABSCBN.

There is a hierarchy of rights and free blogging is more protected and less restricted by laws than the Press, because we do not impose ourselves on the public and are not engaged in capitalist profit-making as they are.

This is the real root of "press responsibility" and why press freedom is not free and unrestricted.

In this sense I would extend the claim of Fr. Bernas that the Press has no greater freedom of speech than the ordinary citizen to say that the Press actually has LESS freedom of expression than ordinary citizens because they have more legal and moral restrictions on them in exchange for the privilege we grant them of actually SELLING their wares, whether news, views or tsismis.

cvj said...

What if a blogger turns on Google AdSense? Or if you get paid by Pajamas Media? Does he/she cross over to where the Press is in your scheme of things?

What if you write a book for sale?

DJB Rizalist said...

cvj,
I see that you get the point. There is a spectrum of freedom and responsibility that goes with the exercise of our ability to express our thoughts. But between ABSCBN News, PDI, DZMM and the non commercial blogs you must admit there is a great difference. It's not either or, not binary but a continuous gradation. There is nothing even original about this position because it is a widely recognized principle that print is different than broadcasting, the latter requiring Franchises which are much more restrictive.

The marketplace for ideas is not a free market. It is a regulated one. Considering that ABSCBN reporters were among the recalcitrant spoilt brats at the Manila Pen, we must judge them against the duties and responsibilities inherent in their franchise.

I think the govt would have been within its rights under that Franchise to have shut them down and prevented their coverage of the Manila Pen incident altogether.

The internet at the moment is the Wild West, but sooner or later it too will fall under some kind of regulation, as it should.

But we must accept the fact that Press Freedom has its very definite limits.

DJB Rizalist said...

BTW, we ought to congratulate the police for being quite lenient in the case of the Manila Pen incident. They did not harass ANY of the media that WERE free to cover the whole event from about 50 meters away (where they could've reported on any putative massacre or police brutality) -- they just didn't want them 5 centimeters away and making it potentially lethal to the law enforcers.

The police have their own duties and responsbilities whose discharge was certainly interfered with and even compromised by those who refused to obey lawful authorities. All because people lie Vergel o. Santos and Ellen Tordesillas are not protectors of free speech. They are liberal fascists who think their rights stand highest in the hierarchy. They are seriously deluded and they damage democracy more than Gloria in some ways.

manuelbuencamino said...

"Those laws are there because big outfits like ABSCBN News are given a special privilege to use the airwaves which penetrate right into our homes. In exchange for that, the press agrees to certain duties, restrictions and responsibilities. Otherwise why would they be given the privilege of beaming their money making products into our own homes?"

Newspapers and magazines also penetrate our homes too up to our toilets even, but they are not subjected to the same restrictions.

Why?

The difference is in the nature of the medium.

You can have as many print media as u want in any area and no problem Broadcast on the other hand can only have one car per lane.

So that's why you have franchises. boards. They are like traffic cops, they cab direct traffic but they have no business telling you what color of car to drive.

Those franchise rules are censorship. They are a straitjacket imposed by governments obsessed with controlling the flow of informarion

DJB Rizalist said...

MB,
I highly recommend you read up on the Tragedy of the Commons, of which the airwaves are pertinent example under this discussion. What you call "censorship" is what stands between us and the chaos that would otherwise result. Lucky your brand of anarchism went out with the likes of Proudhon and Kropotkin.

HILLBLOGGER said...

In a way, I agree with Dean "Press Freedom is the Commercial Right to Sell News, Views and Entertainment" but that said, I also believe like all those entities that boast of commercial rights, there are those news media, that sell good news, good views, and good entertainment entertainment with balanced views as opposed to those that sell smut.

manuelbuencamino said...

You failed to see my point.

Why are there different rules for print and broadcast?

Because, in broadcast, space needs to be allocated.

Now the what I cannot follow is the jump from recognizing the necessity of accepting an authority in charge of space allocation to allowing that same authority to tell me what I can say in my own space.

The chaos that you speak about is not a struggle over the commons rather it is the anarchy of ideas.

And that my friend is what scares totalitarians. That my friend is what scares all governments. And that's why we have the bill of rights. It is meant to control the totalitarian tendencies of all governments.

The Tragedy of the Commons does not apply to ideas. That's what I/ve been talking about my friend

manuelbuencamino said...

This is not an argument over the authority to allocate broadcast space. This is an argument over the claim that because the government allocated the space, it has a right to dictate content

The government has the power to dictate content. But it does not have a right to do so and I speak not as a lawyer but as a patriotic citizen who believes in human rights

DJB Rizalist said...

HB,
But of course!
Now once we accept that press freedom is basically a commercial right, do you think the right to sell newspapers, radio and tv programs is greater than, less than, or equal to the right to sell balut, or shoes or real estate? Is the "right to know" greater than the right to enjoy duck foetuses, protect our feet, or have a home? Why do journalists suddenly possess some kind of exalted position according to people like Ellen and Vergel? How should we organize the hierarchy of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Is the right to life of a policeman and citizens' to law and order, lower than the right to get and sell scoops? How many people were even interested in knowing what Trillanes was up to again, in yet another luxury hotel?

DJB Rizalist said...

MB,
The Tragedy of the Commons applies to the airwaves. We must regulate access to the microwave commons, hence the need for franchises.

But the fact that press freedom is a commercial right imposes other restrictions on the freedom of speech of organized journalists which we call "press freedom." Although legislative franchises are not required to print a newspaper, there are many similar restrictions, such as taxes, licenses, and the whole gamut of business law that applies even to newspapers. In particular libel laws do not allow for the total chaos or complete anarchy of ideas you seem to espouse.

And certainly in the pursuit of this grand commercial enterprise wherein reporters must act like hunters or fishermen for the companies they work for to bring in the next day's wares to sell, they cannot at the same time get in the way of police who are trying to arrest those against whom courts of law have issued warrants, because both are just doing their jobs.

Here where the hierarchy of rights comes in: the right to life and law and order is prior to the right to sell newspapers and broadcast news, which were not really even abridged. All the police wanted Ellen and Vergel & Co. to do was to exercise their rights from 50 meters away, not 5 centimeters.

manuelbuencamino said...

Dj, But you are merely repeating what I said.

You - "The Tragedy of the Commons applies to the airwaves. We must regulate access to the microwave commons, hence the need for franchises."

Me - "Because, in broadcast, space needs to be allocated." and "The Tragedy of the Commons does not apply to ideas."

We have different views on commercialization.

You: "But the fact that press freedom is a commercial right imposes other restrictions on the freedom of speech of organized journalists which we call "press freedom."

Me: "So what if they were selling their story? Commercialism is not the issue." and "This is not an argument over the authority to allocate broadcast space. This is an argument over the claim that because the government allocated the space, it has a right to dictate content "

We have libel laws, prohibitions against false advertising etc. to take care of policing content. And these laws are not regulations passed by government for self protection. They are laws that keep peace among men not laws that keep government riding on the backs of citizens. I hope you got the distinction because that's what I've been trying to point out to you all day.

"And that my friend is what scares totalitarians. That my friend is what scares all governments. And that's why we have the bill of rights. It is meant to control the totalitarian tendencies of all governments. "

Now as to your heirarchy of needs, well if you believe the police have greater rights than those who pay them for protection then that's your contribution to the anarchy of ideas.

DJB Rizalist said...

MB,
Yes I do think that the Right to Life of a policeman outweighs the right of some two bit journalist to get and sell a scoop from 5 centimeters away from the action, especially when the policeman is only asking that the journalist do his job from 50 meters away. In the hierarchy of rights, essential human rights are higher than the right to buy and sell stuff. Peace and order and the suppression of crimes like rebellion trumps mere commerce in scoops and sensationalism by journalists who are clearly partisan accomplices and accessories to glamorous rebels masquerading as senators.

manuelbuencamino said...

Ellen and Barias both have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happines.


Yes I do think that the Right to Life of a policeman outweighs the right of some two bit journalist to get and sell a scoop

How did Ellen and company endanger the life of a policeman? I believe that's the first question O asked.

Dave Llorito said...

mb, djb: i have one simple question re manila pen caper. supposing the cops decided that they had to enforce the law and bullets from all sides flew and ellen tordesillas and company, in their eagerness to witness the incident a few feet away from the action, took some of the bullets and died. how do you think should we sort it out?

that's why i would rather that media should stay a few meters away, or follow certain rules. during the Gulf War, journalists, as i understood it, were not allowed to freely mingle with the combatants from all sides. they got "embedded" with the troops and had to follow certain rules. those who got embedded even had to undergo basic training (boot camp?!) on how to minimize getting hit by bullets.

DJB Rizalist said...

dave,
Indeed, I think the majority of the Mass Media covering the Manila Pen caper did obey the police (and common sense I might add). Their coverage was no less effective than those who did not. In fact they probably had a better vantage point in NOT becoming a part of the story. I guess when journalists become part of the story that is a clear sign that they have overstepped their bounds. I happen to know that the plaintiffs aren't exactly neutral in their opinions about Trillanes, Oakwood and GMA. That's their right. But they are confusing Press Freedom with individual liberty. They are confused and confounded and have demeaned both forms of liberty.

manuelbuencamino said...

Dave,

The business of embedded journalist is something that journalists were complaining about because the purpose was not their safety rather it was so that the US military could control the news coverage.

And since you brought up the matter I remember the female Italian journalist whose car was shot up by American forces on her way to Baghdad airport. She was a non imbedded reporter pretty much like Ces Drilon was in Sulu.

AdB said...

Dean,

Re "The internet at the moment is the Wild West, but sooner or later it too will fall under some kind of regulation, as it should."

You will be pleased to know that the EU Parliament has just tabled a motion or project of a law for debate, (would you believe, an MEP from former Russian sattelite country Estonia?) regulating internet contents and this includes blogging...

AdB said...

Link:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/story_page/058-31021-161-06-24-909-20080605STO30955-2008-09-06-2008/default_en.htm

DJB Rizalist said...

adb,
Figgers. The Pilgrims and colonists will remember why they left Europe in the first place! hehe

Dave Llorito said...

mb: you mean, there should be no restrictions at all? fine with me actually. then i guess we should let the cops or the military do their job whilel the journalists do their own and let each of them assume all the risks. and when the bodies and the bullets converge, tough luck. and how should we sort it out later? maybe we just pull bodies aside and let the action continue. hehe! that would be interesting.

but i remember the wacko incident in texas, in the land of press freedom and vibrant media, and it seems to me media never tried to be close and personal with the subjects; not before the police action, and not during the operations. ah, these timid american journalists. they should learn from Ces and Ellen.